A Guide to Van Life in Sedona, AZ

This is a guide and review of van life in Sedona, Arizona. Sedona for good reason is one of the most popular van life locations due to its combination of day hikes, free camping, scenic red rocks and an active town.

Sedona is a bustling tourism destination, and on its own is a must visit. It has hiking, vortexes, romantic resorts and restaurants to suit every taste. There is something for everyone here.

Add in all the conveniences imaginably for those living van life and you will quickly see why there are hundreds of promaster, sprinter and transit vans roaming the streets.

What To Expect From this Guide

This is not an exhaustive list but a solo van lifers experience in Sedona on multiple occasions.  It has a personal twist to it that mixes van life essentials, hiking, and the best that Sedona offers for coffee, burgers and hangouts.

Like all the location reviews on this site this review is geared mainly towards visiting van lifers. With that said it can also be utilized by RV’s, van lifers living full time in Sedona, visitors looking to camp, and those visiting Sedona in a more traditional way.


hiking cave in sedona arizona

Location & Getting Around


Sedona is located just over 2 hours north of Phoenix and 45 Minutes below Flagstaff. It is also only 2 hours below the Grand Canyon and within weekend trips for Page, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Monument Valley. This make for a convenient destination for those looking to explore southern Arizona or take on the famed van life exploration through the Arizona and Utah border.

Getting Around

The more you know about the main sections of Sedona the more simple it to get a grip on where to spend your time.  Luckily its a small town with a couple main roads to make it easy to find camping, hikes and food.  

West Sedona

West Sedona is the commercial area of town and one you will drive through each time you head into Sedona from camping on Forest Road 525. 


This is the main tourist area and is home to restaurants, shops and hotels.  There is a short main drag where you will see everyone walking around and living the tourist life. Uptown is a must stop for a dinner or walk around the shops.  After you do this once you’ll likely want to avoid this area moving forward. 

Village of Oak Creek

Oak Creek is a small quiet town that conveniently borders popular hikes like Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. It’s much quieter than what you will see in West Sedona or Uptown and is a good spot to do work at the local coffee shops.  For this van lifer it was the main reason for visiting as its home to the best coffee in the Sedona area.

map of sedona arizona

The image above is courtesy of Red Rock TV 16.

Points of Interest

Hillside Shopping Plaza

The Hillside Shopping Center also has some cool outdoor seating on the second level with sick views while you are working. There is a public wifi connection that has full strength here, but I could never seem to get it to connect. There might be an issue with the password or my wifi was just acting up. Either way you should have good cell service here for a hotspot, read a book, or hangout before you eat at Dellepiane Burger or the Javelina Cantina.

Hillside is located off of West Sedona on the way to Oak Creek Village.




This little shopping/restaurant area is cool to walk around has a few decent food places.

Tilaquepaque is located on Route 179 just between two roundabouts and around a half of mile to Hillside Plaza.


Hillside Shopping Plaza.  There are tables and chairs on the second floor, above Javelina Cantina and Dellepiane Burger, that make for great spots for work days. 

Neighboring Towns


Cottonwood is located 15 minutes from camping on Forest Road 525 and is a convenient alternative to your visits into Sedona. Cottonwood is a bigger town and is home to a Planet Fitness to shower at, Starbucks with ample outdoor seating, Walmart, and Home Depot all within 1 square mile.  It’s an ideal located to stock up on supplies, easy access to wifi, get in a workout, and the all important shower afterwards. Old Town Cottonwood also has a nice little strip of restaurants with a small town vibe. It’s worth spending a night here after a workout.


Flagstaff is a short 45 minute drive north of Sedona on one of my favorite roads of van life.  It’s a twisty incline to get out of Sedona before an almost straight shot through wooded areas. Make sure to stay very aware while driving in the evening as the turns are sharp and this area is known for large elk. In my time on the road i’ve seen one elk crossing and another three hanging out on the side of the road. Scary sight when you see how large they are without much time to avoid them.

Flagstaff is a city in a higher elevated that is home to the largest peak in the state. They have a vibey/funky downtown area with ample coffee spots, shopping, and restaurants.  If you head through then Diablo Burger is a must stop for the best burger in the state and some of my favorite fries as well.

Flagstaff is also home to whatever kind of big box stores you will need and has its own van life community and options.

mountains of flagstaff arizona

The mountains of Flagstaff are only a short 45 minute drive from Sedona.


Reception From Locals

This is one of the most van life friendly towns you will find. Parking is ample in and around shopping centers and other vans are so common you normally won’t get a second look. 


Other Van Lifers

As mentioned there is a huge van life community in Sedona.  You will see other van lifers on hikes, at Planet Fitness, working at Starbucks, on the trails, and obviously camping on Forest Road 525. The majority of van lifers and nomads in Sedona are very friendly and will strike up a conversation or even join for a campfire.  The great thing about the 525 is that there are so many options for camping. You can join others in a more crowded section to make friends or you can seek out solitude in more private locations.

Dumping and Walks of Shame

Posse Park 

If you are using a camping toilet or…gasp… water bottles and plastic bags to take care of your waste then this is a good option.

One of the most accessible spots I found for the walk of shame in Sedona was the Posse Park off of Soldiers Pass Road. There are a couple of Restrooms attached to the fields there and they usually aren’t too overcrowded. This makes it easy to grab a restroom to yourself without too much attention called to your disposable.

If you are in an RV or rig there are some options down toward Cottonwood but I can’t give you my experience in that area.


Free Campsites

Forest Road 525

Forest Road 525 is Where Its at in Sedona. It isn’t your only option in town, but its hard to beat. 

There are so many options on this road for all types of vehicles.

For those less adventurous the first lot on the left can be used for quick access on and off, but you will have to deal with more noise from the highway along with ATV’s in the morning.

After the first lot the road turns into dirt, still easily accessible for all, where there are lots for rigs, vans, and all types of vehicles. On the left there seems to be a van life circle, with a fire pit in the middle, that seems to draw a new crew each week. My chosen spot was shortly after that with a turn out into a dirt area with numerous fire pits. I wouldn’t call this a lot as it doesn’t have a direct road into it. You have to slowly go over a little dirt pass to get onto it. Again any vehicle, including rigs, can access this area as well. During peak times of the year all of these lots and areas are packed. I stayed in the first lot my first time through Sedona as it was November and the 525 was jamming.

Further down the dirt road, around 5ish miles, there are numerous scenic spots that will also offer more privacy if you are able to snag one. These can also fill up pretty fast in peak times. The downside is that you do have to travel further down the dirt road which will add some extra time to your commute in and out of Sedona. While the roads are well maintained and accessible you will still have things flying around from time to time. This can be worth it to some as the views are that much better.

For access to the best spots you should look to arrive mid week and set up a tent, chair, or other indicator that the site is taken. This will save you from having to look for a new spot every time you come back at night or even being out of luck on the extremely busy weekends.



Sedona Hikes

As mentioned Sedona is one of the meccas of day hikes and has hike for every level.  What makes hiking in Sedona so special is the vicinity of how close they all are to the center of town and also to the campsite. You have hundreds of hikes within a 30 minute radius that offer the versatility of views, rock formations, caves and desert trails.

There is a much more extensive guide to hiking in Sedona located here. The section below will give you the options an how to plan your Sedona hiking adventures. 


1. The Birthing Cave

2. Airport Loop Hike

3. Chapel of the Holy Cross

4. Bell Rock

5. Courthouse Butte


1. Devil’s Bridge

2. Cathedral Rock

3. Soldiers Pass Cave

4. Boynton Canyon

5. Hangover Trail


1. Bear Mountain

2. Wilson Mountain

3. Sterling Pass

4. Capitol Butte

5. Schnebly Hill

Showers and Fitness

This comes down to your budget and preference of gym locations. Planet Fitness was my preferred option but this was with the understanding that I would be splitting some days in Cottonwood instead of Sedona.

Planet Fitness – Cottonwood

Planet is usually the go to for van lifers in need of a workout and shower. For just over $20 you get access to any location in the country along with a guest each visit.  It’s a no brainer for individuals and especially for couples traveling together.  I spent 20 years working in high end gyms so this drop off took some getting used to. They have everything you need though to get in a good workout.  Only the more advanced gym goers will miss the weights above 75 pound, the airdyne bike and versaclimber.  At the very least they have the hot showers that van lifers crave.



Snap Fitness – Sedona or Cottonwood 

This is the fancier and much more expensive option.  They also don’t have nearly as many locations across the country to take advantage of. My experience with the Sedona location wasn’t great when I was inquiring about memberships. It was almost as if they were brushing me off because I wasn’t a local in spite of wanting to make that my home club.  

Navigate to Sedona Snap Fitness

Navigate to Cottonwood Snap Fitness


Sunset Locations

Hangover Trail

The Hangover Trail is going to make you earn your sunset as its a 5.8 mile out and back hike.  The view at sunset, as you can see above, as well worth it.  The trail itself isn’t tough and you can usually make it back with some light left. 



Airport Mesa

The airport overlook has great views, though there are crowds, at the top across from the parking lot. You can pay $3 to park at the top and then access the overlook or the short trail down to the airport loop area.



Airport Vortex

This Vortex is a good pairing with the Airport Loop Trail as it ends right by the vortex. If you park in the lot up top then there is a little trail that goes down to the trailhead. Make sure to take the loop clockwise for the best views.



Cathedral Rock

Cathedral is one of “THE” hikes in Sedona and also a must see at sunset. It is a quick hike and the entire out and back can be done during golden hour.  The hardest part here is finding parking during the busy season. The fun part for those in van life though is the option to avoid the busy tourist season. 



 Water Availability

Natural Spring on Route 89A

A short 15-20 minute drive gives you access to a free spring water source a few miles past the West Fork Hike. I’ve used this a few times to fill up my tanks, and have used it for drinking water as well as to shower.

This was the most convenient water source i’ve come across on the road. It right down the street from a couple of the more popular hikes on the Sedona list and is also on the way out of town towards Flagstaff.  This is a no brainer and the only source that I needed while in town.



Wifi and Hangout Spots


Decent coffee and fast wifi. That’s why you stop at Starbucks in Sedona. The coffee guide above filled you in on your options here. I will reiterate though that if you are doing van life in Sedona and you need wifi you will most likely be spending some time at one of the two locations below. 

Navigate to Sedona Starbucks

Navigate to Cottonwood Starbucks


Sedona Library

Not a coffee fan? Trying to save some cash for other van life trips? Still need fast wifi? 

The Sedona Library is your best bet and won’t disappoint. It’s free and has fast wifi.  A van lifers dream.



Posse Park

There isn’t technically wifi at Posse Park, but it does make for a great location to spend the day away from the town and campsite. As mentioned earlier it’s also a good spot for a walk of shame(without the shame). Bring a blanket and hang out on one of the many fields here.



Hillside Plaza

At some point you will likely eat at one of the restaurants at Hillside so it makes sense to spend a day of work here as well.  There are couches to lounge on and views to go with it. There is a public Sedona wifi connection but I wasn’t able to access it while in town. 



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